The mechanical behavior of eukaryotic cell components is critical to cell mobility, division, signaling, and proliferation. Cell components are in such harmony with each other that often mechanical testing of individual components produces less meaningful results than testing performed within living cells. Moreover, cell components are constantly undergoing growth and remodeling, normally through polymerization and depolymerization. An appropriate experimental and modeling framework is therefore essential for cell mechanics. In this study, a special atomic force microscope (AFM) with controlled adhesion area of the cell to a substrate was used to probe the mechanical response of cells to an external force. This experimental set up enables direct control of the applied force and precise measurement of the cell penetration by the AFM tip. A modeling framework that combines the displacement field with the applied force/stress obtained with the AFM is developed to estimate the mechanical properties of each cell component. The tribological relevance of this research is the viscoelastic deformation of cell components under different contact loads.

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